Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although Wodehouse liked to set many of his tales in oddly named villages, such as Little-Wigmarsh-in-the-Dell or Lower Briskett-in-the-Midden, this story staidly begins in London and moves to the plainly named Brawstead Manor in Sussex. The dialog also is somewhat restrained, as compared with much of Wodehouse’s work.

Wodehouse employs his usual degree of exaggeration in “The Reverent Wooing of Archibald,” which, like most of Wodehouse’s works, has the exaggeration of slapstick but none of the associated tedium. When Archibald first lays eyes on the beautiful Aurelia, his thought is not merely that she is attractive and that he might like to meet her; as his narrating uncle puts it, he worshiped her with a passion that might make him lose his reason. When he embarks on his imitation of a hen laying an egg, he does not just cluck and wave his elbows; he leaps and flaps and crows himself purple in the face, finally alighting atop the chest of drawers.

Another aspect of Wodehouse’s penchant for exaggeration is the extreme ignorance of the lead character. Just like his more famous character Bertie Wooster, Archibald is portrayed as being ignorant and lacking even the most basic education, yet able to hold his own in his stratum of society. His uncle says Archibald is not just an ordinary pinhead but an exceptional one. If his brain were made of silk, he would have had a hard time finding enough material to make pants for a canary. The very start of his plan to win the fair Aurelia involves his having no knowledge whatsoever of William Shakespeare or Francis Bacon. It is part of Wodehouse’s talent that he can make the reader believe that such a character can carry on a normal life among the elite.